Sunday, November 18, 2018

Natural Antibiotic Thanatin
 This spiny soldier bug has become quite useful in  battling gram negative bacteria. Gram negative bacteria is very hard to fend off resulting in very few antibiotics choices. However, researchers recently found a naturally forming antibiotic inside the bug which interrupts the defensive layer of the bacteria. This antibiotic is Thanatin. It attacks the formation of the 2nd outer layer of the negative gram, specifically the cells that transport lipopolysaccharide(LPS)  which is the main ingredient for the bacterial layer. Thanatin itself is able to stop LPS from binding to each other to form their membrane which means that it specifically targets bacterial protein/enzymes so there should not be human side effects (hopefully). This introduces new ways to produce antibiotics to potentially save lives.

China Law Discourages Genetics Data Sharing

What's innovation without freedom? Advances in any field cannot occur if heavy restrictions are in place. A national law in China, which requires researchers to seek permission from the government before sharing any genetic data they compile, hampers scientific progress in the field of genetics. Recently, five companies and one hospital were caught and penalized for sharing such data. This is an effort by China, according to Nature, to deter companies from exploiting China's vast pool of genetic data (population estimated to be over 1.3 billion people). The government went so far as to compel a company to erase all the data they compiled for a research article they published in 2015. All affected parties are forced to take a data-privacy examination in order to continue working with international partners in genetics research. This article highlights the issue of bureaucratic red tape in slowing down scientific progress.

Reactions to this law in the scientific community have been mixed, with some proponents stating one should respect regulatory guidelines set by a governing body, while others agree that such restrictions impede scientific advancement. One geneticist believes that the repercussions span beyond just the companies who are compiling data for research, but to China as a country itself. This geneticist believes that if these strict policies continue to be enforced, China, "could become isolated from international groups," in terms of genetics research. This sort of political exclusion disregards one of sciences most important aspects, which is the sharing of data by the scientific community. Without sharing, data cannot be expanded upon or verified, which makes the drawing of findings cumbersome.

In my opinion, no national entity should restrict the sharing of any scientific data since that is a tremendous part of the scientific process. Future research is built upon the foundations established by prior findings. However, with restrictions on data sharing, further research is also limited in its direction. I understand why China may be wary due to their immense population and the possibility of exploit by companies, I still don't think China should punish the involved parties as they did unless they found probable cause that such data sharing is negatively impacting the country as a whole.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Andean Adaptation to an Agricultural Lifestyle

Indigenous Andeans began to utilize agricultural practices thousands of years ago, before Europeans arrived and colonized. A particular crop that has become their staple diet is the potato. Its consumption can give us information on how humans adapt to new diets.

To examine whether or not genetic adaptation occurred over time, this study assessed and compared the genome single nucleotide polymorphism data of ancient and modern populations within the highland regions of Lake Titicaca and also lowland living Andeans. They discovered that the gene MGAM, which is involved in starch digestion, changed in the genome of ancient and modern highland Andeans but not in lowland populations who remained hunter-gatherers. This demonstrates that the evolution of potato crops initiated the evolution of the MGAM gene or coevolution.

Another gene that may have been affected is the DST gene, which is linked to the formation of the heart muscle in mice. Andeans living in the highland tend to have larger right ventricles, the right chamber of the heart. This may be attributed to the low amounts of oxygen in high altitude areas. Andeans would have had to compensate minimal amounts of oxygen with a change to their cardiovascular system. Also modern day Andeans have been discovered to have evolved immunes systems. The arrival of the Spanish led to an outbreak of disease. Such outbreaks led to genetic change in the CD83 gene, connected to smallpox and in the RPS29 gene, connected to influenza.

As a daughter of two indigenous Peruvians who hail from the Andes, this was an interesting read. I wonder if after a couple of generations whether or not the previously mentioned genes of modern Andeans who come to America remain the way the are or if there appears to be any deviation. I also wonder if genes vary among populations residing on different elevations since the variety of edible vegetation is also different.


Coffee or tea? Your preference may be written in your DNA

Complete articles are here: Link 1 & Link 2

Individuals with a form of a quality that builds affectability to the harsh kind of caffeine will in general be espresso consumers, analysts report online November 15 in Scientific Reports. Tea consumers would in general be less delicate to caffeine's harsh taste, however have variants of qualities that expansion affectability to the harshness of different synthetic substances, the scientists found.

Image result for coffeeIt's for quite some time been believed that individuals abstain from eating harsh sustenances since harshness is a pointer of toxic substance, says John Hayes, a taste scientist at Penn State who was not engaged with the investigation. The espresso and tea discoveries help test that "excessively oversimplified 'severe is in every case terrible, how about we keep away from it'" see, he says.

Image result for teaIn the new examination, specialists analyzed DNA variations of qualities engaged with identifying the unpleasant taste of the synthetic concoctions, caffeine, quinine — that severe preference for tonic water — and propylthiouracil (PROP), an engineered compound not normally found in sustenance or drink. Other severe segments normally in espresso and tea may trigger a similar taste reactions as quinine and PROP do, Hayes says.

Specialists in Australia, the United States and England analyzed DNA from in excess of 400,000 members in the UK Biobank, an archive of hereditary information for restorative research. Members additionally announced other data about their wellbeing and way of life, including how much tea or espresso they drink every day.

The group included every individual's variations in the taste qualities, making a hereditary score for how seriously the individual tastes every one of the severe synthetics. The scientists at that point contrasted those scores with the general population's accounted for drink decisions.

Battling Cancer by Targeting Epigenetics

Cancer is a devastating disease that exists in different forms and can vary from patient to patient. Ultimately this multidimensional disease causes healthy cells to lose their ability to reproduce at healthy rates. Scientists at Temple University’s School of Medicine have identified a positive trend in cancer cases when inhibiting a specific gene, CDK9. Inhibiting this transcription regulator gene with the drug MC180295 reactivated tumor suppressor genes that were epigenetically silenced in cases of cancer. When CDK9 is active, it functions as a transcription regulator and also inhibits the activity of BRG1, which is recognized for its role in DNA repair mechanisms as well as replication and transcription processes. Application of MC180295 ultimately resulted in increased tumor suppressor gene activity and healthy cell division, both in vitro and in vivo.
Genes that are epigenetically modified do not have alterations in their actual DNA sequence, but are rather silenced due to a methylated cytosine base pair, histone protein modifications, or other modifications at the gene’s site that prevent the gene from expression. In cancer cases, BRG1 is epigenetically silenced by CDK9 and cells lose critical regulation functions.

This gene was identified as a gene of interest through a live cell drug screen that screened cancer lines with different drug samples. This treatment discovery was viewed as a breakthrough because it is the first to link CDK9 to other silenced genes. The drug utilized was also highly selective in inhibiting the specific CDK9 site, thus making BRG1 more active in regulating transcriptional processes. This would also avoid potential damage to the cell cycle in functioning cells that is observed in contemporary cancer treatments. It would be interesting to see if any risk factors are associated with inhibiting CDK9. Because of CDK9’s role as a transcription regulator, observing cell activity in the absence of this gene will help strengthen the case for this drug's utility moving forward. 

Break a leg... and repair it?

   Don't tell PETA, but researchers are amputating frog legs in the name of science! While this may seem disturbing just know that the street value for frog legs is pretty decent; someone has to pay for the funding of research! On the bright side, there is no reason to worry as these frogs can grow back their limbs. Known as the African clawed frog, these little guys have the ability to regenerate limbs, though not as good as the original. Luckily for the frogs, researchers have come up with a device that can assist the healing process to help grow back their limbs. Using a 3D printer, scientists created a bioreactor device made out of silicon and inserted a hydrogel. The gel itself has "hydrating silk proteins that promote healing and regeneration" but scientists also added progesterone, a hormone that can "promote nerve, blood vessel, and bone tissue repair" (1).

   In order for the bioreactor device to work, the researchers sutured the device where the limb was amputated for a total of 24 hours before removing it. At this point, the goal was that the device would release progesterone where the limb was amputated and increase the frog's regenerative abilities. With different test groups to ensure that the bioreactor device was the cause of any positive outcomes, the experimental group did grow a stronger and better limb. Typically, the frog grows a limb that is subpar, something the article describes as a spike-like structure. However, with the bioreactor in place, the frog regenerated a limb that was noticeably different from the other groups, essentially resembling an almost fully healed limb. This can be attributed to the change in gene expression from the bioreactor causing an upregulation in healing factors and a downregulation in scarring factors.

   Ultimately, due to the change in gene expression from the bioreactor device, the frogs were able to swim again as if they had never lost their leg. While this is only a laboratory setting for a device that is working on frogs, imagine the implications this could have on humans. Obviously we do not regenerate limbs, but regeneration has been something of wonder in the realm of science for a while. I think that once scientists become more familiar with how regeneration works, that maybe one day there could be procedures to help those who had lost limbs. However, there may be a parallel to my last post in which I talked about the ethics of CRISPR for humans. Would regeneration yield a  stronger and better limb? I would hope so, but then comes the argument of genetic modification and enhancement. What if other body parts or organs could be regenerated? Stay posted, just might see my name in a paper one day...

Salmon Size Regulation

This research was conducted over a 40 year time period in which scales were collected and measured which gives a great amount of information of the size and age of the salmon. However, over time, their breeding age has become much younger and the gene that allows salmon to grow large has gotten been bred out while the gene for smaller size has become a common occurrence. This study revealed the gene, Vgll3, which controls the "puberty" of a salmon. The scientists figure out that age of the salmon and sexual maturity and connected to their size meaning that the quicker they age, the smaller they are and it seems to be more common. With this information, many different research topics can be covered, such as this is evidence that evolution can happen quickly or how salmon can benefit from being a smaller size.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mosquitoes In Forensic Science

Forensics is still a new science that combines science and criminal justice and can provide evidence in a crime scene to either convict criminals or prove their innocence. There has been an emergence of new techniques in how exactly we extract DNA. Forensic scientists often extract DNA from physical objects within the crime scene. Other methods include locating DNA samples on domestic animals such as dogs and cats.

This article focuses on forensic entomology. A team of forensic scientists are discovering the possibilities of using DNA of human blood taken from the stomach of mosquitoes to solve criminal cases. Mosquitoes have been used to confirm the presence of a person in the crime scene although its reliability has been questioned. The article I read focused on one question: how long would the DNA remain viable as it becomes digested in the mosquito’s stomach? Volunteers of this study were asked to let mosquitoes bite them. After allowing a certain time for digestion, the DNA was extracted and amplified using polymerase chain reaction, or PCR techniques. This was used to determine the quantity of DNA left right after the mosquito’s blood feeding and who exactly the DNA came from. After two days of using PCR, the DNA was still identifiable but after the third day, the DNA was completely digested and therefore unrecognizable.

I think this form of DNA extraction is disregarded by some forensic scientists especially given that it is not the most reliable source. The fact that mosquitoes are only prevalent during the summer season and the chances of the criminal getting bit show that there are slim chances that the mosquito’s stomach contains the correct matching DNA or even any DNA. Also in the case where there are many mosquitoes at the crime scene, the work to amplify all the DNA from the mosquitoes can become burdensome and may result in zero evidence. But in the case where there is no evidence to begin with, then I think it’s a feasible beginning.